Fourteen years ago, Li Na became the first woman from China to reach the US Open quarterfinals in the Open Era. It was an early stepping stone on Li's trailblazing journey, which led to her becoming the first Asian Grand Slam singles champion at 2011 Roland Garros and peaking at World No.2.

Now in the present day, it is 20-year-old Zheng Qinwen who has sped down that trail, reaching her first Grand Slam quarterfinal on Monday in New York.

Zheng beat last year's finalist Ons Jabeur in their fourth-round showdown at the US Open to book her spot in the elite eight. After that breakthrough win, the Chinese No.1 paid tribute to the two-time Grand Slam-winning star who paved the way.

"Actually was Li Na, if you want to say the first memory," Zheng said in her post-match press conference, when asked about her role models. "When she won the French Open [title], the first Asian who won a Grand Slam, that gave a lot to young kids, especially for me. In that moment I start to think, 'Oh, as an Asian, we're also able to win a Grand Slam at a big stage like that.'

"Before that, tennis isn't so popular in China -- I mean, my parents [didn't] know what is tennis before I start to play, that's true," Zheng said with a smile.

"After Li Na, tennis became a more popular sport in China, thanks to her a lot. She also put a dream seed in my heart that I want to become like that."

Leading a group of six Chinese women currently ranked inside the Top 100, Zheng has been tapped for success over the last few years. She was named last season's WTA Newcomer of the Year after rising from outside the Top 100 to the Top 25.

But after last season's huge rise, Zheng's ranking has hovered between No.19 and No.30 this entire year, and she said that there has been impatience on her part.

"I've always been waiting [for] this moment to happen," Zheng said. "Honestly, at beginning of year, I'm thinking it's going to happen very fast. [But] because I'm focusing that moment too much about the result, and I lost little bit the patience of myself, that affects [my] tennis part."

"Sometimes I'd been just thinking too far away about the future, what happens if I'm going to win, what happens if I'm going to lose," Zheng added. "But you don't have to think like that, 'cause in that moment, you are not focused on the tennis ball, you are not focused on the present right now."

And now, after taking on new coach Wim Fissette this summer, Zheng has started hitting more milestones. She won her first WTA singles title in Palermo shortly after they began their partnership, and weeks later, she has her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in the books.

"I feel I'm more stable mentally, especially when I start to work with [Fissette]," Zheng said. "I don't have too much ups and downs like what I had at beginning of the year.

"Not [just] on the tennis court, just general personality. I've become a more calm person. Not, like, always get fire in the practice. It's funny to say that, but honestly that was the truth," Zheng smiled. "He's always telling me, believe in myself. I think that's the key."